Americans Elect is a national online primary process aimed at nominating a third party candidate for the 2012 presidential race. The way Americans Elect publicly says it works is that people sign up to be “delegates” on their website (after filling out a questionnaire about their political beliefs) in order to nominate presidential candidates and ultimately vote to elect the nominee for Americans Elect. As the result of gathering over 2.4 million signatures so far for the November 2012 general election, ballot access for Americans Elect’s candidate is all but guaranteed in all 50 states.
WHAT THE “AMERICANS ELECT” WEBSITE SAYS IT IS
“Americans Elect is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that is not affiliated with any political party, ideology or candidate. It is funded exclusively by individual contributions—and not from corporate, labor, special interest, foreign, or lobbyist sources. And we intend to repay our initial financing so that no single individual will have contributed more than $10K. . . . Ultimately, Americans Elect is the first nominating process that will be led directly by voters like YOU.”
WHAT THEIR WEBSITE DOESN’T TELL YOU
Americans Elect declares that it is not a political party, yet it is registered as one in multiple states.
- Campaign finance watchdogs Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center have asked the IRS to investigate whether Americans Elect, registered as a 501[c](4), qualifies for tax-exempt status since it is not only devoted to intervening in the 2012 elections, it is functioning as and acknowledging itself as a political party for purposes of state ballot access, which makes it ineligible for tax exemption.
- While political parties cannot hide their contributors’ identities, Americans Elect has repeatedly refused to disclose the sources of its funding.
Americans Elect is funded and advised by hedge fund and junk-bond managers (who by historical experience seek a President friendly to rich people and the financial industry) and lobbyists.
- There is considerable evidence that the $20-30 million Americans Elect has raised comes almost exclusively from large donations invested by leaders in the financial industry, the bulk of it from only 50 donors, with no one contribution exceeding $5.5 million.
- Americans Elect founder, billionaire Peter Ackerman (who made his initial fortune as right hand man to junk bond king Michael Milken and is currently chief of investment firm Rockport Capital Inc. and the founder of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict) contributed $1.5 million.
- Initial donations were actually low-interest loans (AE website: “we intend to repay our initial financing..), which means that if you give money to Americans Elect, your donation will likely go right back into the pockets of the multimillionaires who bankrolled the project.
- Contrary to its web statement, Americans Elect does receive funding from lobbyist sources (one e.g., contributor Jim Holbrook is President of Promotion Marketing Association, which is a trade association that does lobbying for the PR and Marketing industry.
- Americans Elect’s own CEO, Kahlil Byrd, has publicly said that if Americans Elect were compelled to disclose its donors, it would have a “chilling effect . . . on people’s willingness to participate in the process.”
- At least 11 of the 50 AE’s board members work in finance.
Americans Elect speaks the language of democracy but is not the grassroots organization it claims to be.
- Americans Elect is paying Arno Political Consultants (owned by two of its board members, Kellen and Michael Arno) to hire signature gatherers (who are not allowed to talk to the press). Arno Political Consultants has a history of being accused of forging signatures and collecting signatures via fraudulent means (e.g., training paid signature gatherers on how to trick people into signing, giving food to homeless people to sign, switching the actual petition after each signature was collected).
- Americans Elect’s self-appointed (not elected) Board of Directors retains most of the authority of the group and has put up obstacles to limit the choices available to online delegates. In short, their internet primary would be, by design, far less democratic than any existing nominating process.
- While Americans Elect claims it has a groundbreaking process that gives all the power to the public, its corporate rules allow the Board of Directors to game the system in order to put up their favored candidates regardless of what a majority of its delegates think.
SINCE THEIR CANDIDATE CAN’T WIN THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, WHAT DOES THE AMERICANS ELECT CORPORATION REALLY WANT?
To tip the balance in 2012 toward a more business-friendly Republican and a victory for Wall Street.
· Judging by the progressive make-up of its online members (based on a questionnaire members are asked to complete when they sign up), it is a real possibility that Americans Elect will run a candidate that would take votes away from President Obama and hand the election to the GOP in a close race.
· So far, the leading AE candidate is Buddy Roemer whose declared platform, get money out of politics, resonates with progressives (e.g., Rachel Maddow has featured him on her show several times and Lawrence Lessig who, as a member of the leadership board of Americans Elect is supposed to adhere to its neutrality policy, is nonetheless a strong Roemer supporter and has appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show twice to campaign for him).
· But Roemer might not be all he claims. While he says that he has always refused to take the big campaign checks and insists on the disclosure of his donors, he took big checks when he ran for governor of Louisiana in 1987. In 1991 he switched from Democrat to Republican when the Republican party and then-President Bush offered to finance his campaign. He lost his re-election bid in the primary to David Duke, the Nazi and former head of the KKK, but tried again in 1995 in a “lavishly-financed campaign” and was again rejected in the primary, coming in 4th.
· Questions are now being raised about Roemer seeking the Americans Elect nomination to take advantage of the $30 million given by secret donor(s) who have set up AE not only to influence the Presidential election but to pick the President.
A seat at the negotiating table in November and December of 2012.
- With the application of some careful strategy, the Americans Elect corporation could be in a position to obtain policy concessions of all sorts, even if it loses the popular vote disastrously.
To privatize our democratic process by running other candidates for office up and down the ticket at federal and state levels - to transform democracy into a corporate model… everywhere.
- According to CEO Kahlil Byrd: “We fully expect to continue to be on the ballot in 2013, 2014, and 2016. In ’13, we’ll go beyond the presidential campaign and focus on state level efforts. We hope this will yield candidates for governor, senator, congress, and below. This will be one of the most exciting phases of the next chapter of our work.”
“If the candidate of Americans Elect were to play a key role in determining the outcome of the 2012 election using secret money to finance their candidate, that would be an extraordinary scandal.”
- Fred Werthheimer former President of Common Cause and campaign finance reform advocate
Sources: Altman, “Can Well-Heeled Insiders Create a Populist Third Party Sensation?” Time Magazine (Dec. 21, 2011); J. Cook, “No Special Funding for Americans Elect?” Irregular Times (July 24, 2011); T. L. Friedman, “Make Way for the Radical Center,” New York Times Sunday Review (July 23, 2011); M. Gold, “Americans Elect Seeks to Upend Primary System,” Los Angeles Times (July 28, 2011).; P. Harris, “Americans Elect Waiting for Big Name as They Seek to Break Two-Party Grip,” The Guardian (March 26, 2012); P. Jonsson, “Americans Elect launches centrist third-party bid amid Washington dysfunction,” Christian Science Monitor (July 29, 2011); S. Mahanta, “2012 Spoiler Alert: What Exactly is Americans Elect?” Mother Jones (November 21, 2011). http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/11/americans-elect-dark-money-campaign-finance; The Truth behind Americans Elect, An Our Oregon Series Parts I-V, March-October 2011) www.ouroregon.org/sockeye/blog/truth-behind-americans-elect